"Oh man, last year I was so close that I got drenched in Dan Deacon's sweat." "I can't believe you've never read 'Our Band Could be Your Life.'" "Tuten's been up there forever, I bet the band isn't even here yet."
The Pitchfork Music Festival's penchant for booking cutting-edge indie bands has a way of bringing out the snarky, music snobbery in attendees. But for casual rock appreciators, these conversations can be pure torture. If you have no idea what the hell all of those hipsters are talking about, this handy alphabetical guide to past performances, indie fixtures and Pitchfork lingo will help you hold your own in the port-o-john line.
All Tomorrow's Parties
This English music festival—named after a Nico-crooned Velvet Underground song—curates Friday night's "Don't Look Back" series, which sees seminal bands Sebadoh, Public Enemy and Mission of Burma playing their most influential albums in entirety. This September also marks the first incarnation of ATP New York.
The Serbian trumpeter, who has earned countless awards and is widely considered to be the best horn player to ever emerge from the Balkans, descends upon Pitchfork as bandleader of the gypsy-jazz-Latin-pop troupe, his own Boban I Marko Markovic Orkestar.
Organized by the Chicago Independent Radio Project, this weekend-long record fair returns to share the shade of the "Big Tent" with the DEPART-ment craft fair—vinyl dealers and indie labels from all over the world set up shop to satisfy all record-geek urges that emerge while at the festival.
The Baltimore native was the talk of the fest last year for a performance that saw fans climbing trees, fences, basketball poles and each other to get a glimpse. Deacon's trademark electro-freak-out set took place not on stage, but in the audience, and caused such a ruckus that festival officials abruptly pulled the plug on him, citing safety and security concerns as reason.
Election If you're gonna vote, you need to be registered. That's where the all-volunteer, non-partisan forces of Interchange come in. You may remember them from their efforts during the 2004 campaign season, when they hosted a sold out four-day festival, registered almost 500 hundred voters, and raised $25,000 for Citizen Action (profits that helped the organization sign-up 75,000 new voters). Check out the very visible Interchange booth on the festival grounds, or flag down one of the 50 volunteers that will be circulating all day, every day. Regardless of which state you live in, they've got the goods to get you registered.
Take a break from the music and wander over to the America Poster Institute's outdoor mall of concert posters. If you're harboring any doubts about the legitimacy of posters as fine art, preeminent artists like Jay Ryan and Lil' Tuffy will squash them. Poster artists man their own makeshift galleries, answer questions and peddle their wares.
Chicago's finest brew makes yet another appearance as festival sponsor, touting its crispy, citrus-tinged 312 Urban Wheat Ale as the ultimate remedy to the blazing July sun. This year, the Goose takes good deeds even further—all GI beer cups at the festival are made from a biodegradable corn-base.
The always unpredictable Les Savy Fav frontman is a festival must-see; in the past, the theatrical Harrington has performed in a bath towel (with nothing underneath), sported a fake sunburn and donned a mosquito costume; and has also been known to join a pickup game of dodgeball during a set, make out with audience members and utilize any props within reach.
It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
Released in 1988, the sophomore album by hip-hop luminaries Public Enemy has spent the last two decades taking up prime real estate on many a "Best of" list. Tags like revolutionary, incendiary, hilarious and innovative are commonly attached to the release, on the strength of stand-out tracks like "Bring the Noise," "Don't Believe the Hype" and "Night of the Living Baseheads." The group will perform it in its entirety on Friday night.
The Memphis-born garage punk prodigy—he's been in the biz since age 15—has his name all over the blogosphere this year. Founding member and creative center of the Oblivians-influenced punk band, The Reatards, the artist is now experiencing a madly popular solo career due to a series of limited-edition singles released on Matador Records.
Kenya's popular music owes a heaping debt to the Benga genre, which began in the mid-20th century and balances notes of Cuban dance, experimental jazz and tribal folk music. Pitchfork performers and Thrill Jockey artists Extra Golden take it one step further by adding American rock into the fray.
Louden Up Now
The breakthrough album from the thoroughly un-Google-able spastic dance band !!! (pronounced "chk chk chk"), Louden Up Now shot the group to underground notoriety with hits like the bass-heavy, infinitely danceable "Me & Giuliani Down By the School Yard."
Maths & English
One of 2007's most critically-lauded albums, Dizzee Rascal's third full-length release, Maths & English, did what few hip-hop albums have done in years: folded standard MC bravado, cultural ponderings, clever lyrics, grime sensibilities and relentless beats into a radio-friendly, hot-pink package.
Night Clubs at Noon
A summer concert series designed through a collaboration among Pitchfork, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and music venues around the city, "Audible Architecture: Night Clubs at Noon" takes over the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion on various dates throughout the summer with bands like Tortoise, the Ex and Habib Koite & Bamada.
Our Band Could Be Your Life
A bookshelf staple among indie aficionados, Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life is the quintessential guide to the pioneering bands of independent music. Two Pitchfork 2008 acts—Mission of Burma and Dinosaur Jr.—had entire chapters of the cherished tome devoted to their music.
One of the UK's most popular bands of the '80s and '90s, Pulp has a distinctive catalogue of sexually charged Brit pop tunes that still enjoy prime placement on DJ playlists worldwide—with disco-ready tracks "Common People," "Mis-Shapes," and "Sorted for E's and Wizz" leading the pack. Frontman Jarvis Cocker's Pitchfork performance this year will no doubt satisfy legions of Brit-pop fanatics still torn up over Pulp's indefinite hiatus.
Norway's largest music festival has long been regarded with the same tastemaker moniker that Chicago's Pitchfork Fest has recently garnered, but this year's event—which was slotted for early July—was cancelled due to low ticket sales, casting doubts on the futures of music festivals world-round.
The Pitchfork founder began the indie-media empire just out of high school in Minneapolis before relocating the entire operation to Chicago. At the time, print media still reigned supreme and the recent grad's prescient understanding of new media set the website up to be one of the most influential brands in the music industry—despite the fact that Schreiber had no writing experience whatsoever.
Heavy distortion, avant-garde tendencies and a firm footing in minimalism made the UK-based Spacemen 3 early pioneers of the shoegaze movement. The group's members later went on to form Spiritualized, a group with a similar droning-aesthetic and a huge indie following. Jason Pierce—now the sole consistent member of the band—nearly died from respiratory failure in 2005 and made a full recovery to release this year's Songs in A&E.
The Hideout co-owner and long-time Pitchfork emcee is charged with introducing the festival's bands throughout the weekend, and also with hosting one of this year's most anticipated after-shows; Friday after Union Park closes down, head to the Hideout for the synth-driven antics of LA-based noise-rockers, HEALTH.
The gorgeous West Loop park nestled under primo views of the Chicago skyline has a long history with music; it's been hosting concerts since the 1920's and was one of Chicago's first integrated public spaces.
Quite possibly 2008's most blogged-about band, the self-titled debut from these New York youngsters marries afro-pop with chamber music while showcases a twee-infused David Byrne fetish. While the album has been continuously lauded by music critics from coast to coast, the live shows have continuously fallen short of the hype, leaving the group with a lot to prove during its Pitchfork set.
It's the stuff of music industry mythology: little-known indie-folk troubadour Justin Vernon locked himself up in a remote Wisconsin cabin to record his critically-adored album, Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago, which has racked up so many perfect and near-perfect ratings that it averaged out to one of the highest collective scores the music review-aggregator site, Metacritic, has ever seen.
Rockin' the mallets isn't exactly a new trend—China was crazy about the suspended wooden bars as far back as 2000 BC—but this year's Pitchfork performers can't get enough of the xy's: the Dirty Projectors, San Francisco's Dodos and Chicago's own Mahjongg have all been known to tickle the scaled-percussion.
In one of 2007's most talked-about performances at Pitchfork, Yoko Ono performed "Mulberries" in its entirety with a little help from Thurston Moore for what she said would be the last time ever. Prior to that night, the avant-garde songstress had only performed the tune live twice before with husband John Lennon and son Sean Lennon.
As half of the duo She & Him, Zooey Deschanel has managed to do what many actresses before her have failed miserably at: she's gone from the silver screen to the recording studio without looking like a moron. The actress-turned-folk chanteuse is rumored to appear at this year's festival during her partner, M. Ward's highly-anticipated set.
Now that you know the basics, find out the nitty-gritty details with our guides to the fest's can't-miss bands, food booths and other vendors. Plus, get all the tips you need to survive the weekend.